What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

From the beginning of third grade to the end of fifth grade, children go from rowdy childhood to the brink of adolescence. This is a great time to introduce and encourage dance practices that engage their imaginations and get them up and moving. This is also the age group where students can, for the first time, realize that they have special talents and skillsóit’s no coincidence that this is the age at which dance instruction typically begins in dance studios. These students are ready and able to modify their behavior in response to feedback. They aren’t dominated by peer pressure, so they can still pursue individual, personal responses to problem solving and creativity, but they are also ready to experience dance instruction as more than just exercise or a fun activity. The following is a quick look at some of the behaviors you’re likely to encounter within this learning level.

Third graders

Third graders love to laugh and be silly, but they still seek adult attention and approval. They learn by exploring and creating and have the capacity to vigorously engage with projects. They are still young, though, and benefit from short, structured activities with built-in rest periods. As dancers they are developing physical strength and body awareness, and they work well in group situations that allow them each a chance to excel. Dance classes built on clear instruction can help your third graders harness their energy, capitalize on their passion for discovery, and work together collaboratively.

Fourth graders

Fourth graders can be more sensitive than their younger peersóthey worry about looking foolish and place a premium on respect and fairness. But they also love to move and enjoy and excel at games. Fun, focused dance activities can be great for bringing them out of their shells. Physically they are developing agility, speed, balance, and upper body strength, and they’re learning to make connections between physical conditioning and ability. They also may show increasing interest in attending dance performances and understanding dance as an art form. Once an activity has engaged their interest, fourth graders tend to dive in with enthusiasm.

Fifth graders

Fifth graders are usually a mix of ten- and eleven-year-olds. Physically most ten-year-olds are still children; by eleven, they are starting to hit puberty. Their bones hurt, their bodies are changing, and they are prone to mood swings and emotions they don’t understand. Dance class can be a unique arena in which to help them navigate this developmental phase and help them learn what to anticipate as they mature. Cognitively they are developing higher-order thinking skills and are starting to question and challenge authority. Activities that allow these young dancers to work in teams to solve problems and teach each other work well.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 3 Students Can… Grade 5 Students Can…

choreograph and perform a short dance phrase that explores variations in meter (3/4, 2/4, 4/4 time)

create and perform a 64-count movement phrase that explores meter using exaggerated tempos and abstract movement


create a short dance using creative combinations of hopping, skipping, jumping, and other basic locomotor movements

create a complex movement sequence requiring increased strength, agility, and balance


develop movement phrases inspired by states of the natural world (water, wind, etc.)

use both pantomime and dance to express meaning and discuss the difference


watch a performance of a ceremonial dance and identify and analyze its elements

watch a ballet or modern dance performance, identify key elements, and then create a group dance based on them


watch other students perform and constructively discuss their work

research and discuss the connections between dance and other art forms